Wavesisters SURF WEEK

3:33 PM in Surf Trip by thomasadmin

A surf trip for women

14.03.-22.03.20 @ Wavesisters Surf & Yoga Camp Lanzarote
09.05.-17.05.20 @ Wavesisters Surf & Yoga Camp Portugal

You always wanted to learn how to surf and you were looking for a gender-non-conforming surf group? Here we go!
We welcome all queers: lesbian, gay, bi, trans, inter, non-binary people!
Join our Queer Only Week and learn how to surf or improve your surf skills! The beach is super close by and our cozy surf house has a great terrace waiting for you after relaxing from our yoga and surf sessions and for a delicious BBQ at the end of the day.
Our weekly packages are the same well proven ones we do for our girls only weeks and our team is looking forward to pass on to you all knowledge and give you a happy time with a like-minded group!
Our groups are small, so spots are rare.

Please email info@gaysurfers.net for more info on how to book !

The Rise of the Queer Surf Community

4:38 PM in Articles by thomasadmin

Article published in GQ magazine – by GABE BERGADO

For many queer people, it’s hard to find spaces where we feel like we can thrive and be ourselves. Many of us find pride in nightlife; others meet fellow LGBTQ people through gay sports leagues, an opportunity to find chosen family while playing kickball or water polo. So the recently blossoming cottage industry of gay surf communities marks another, much-needed space that allows queer people to be their authentic selves—while also getting trained in a sport they might have long been interested in but never felt like they could be a part of.

It’s still early days for the LGBTQ surf world, but visible communities of queer surfers have begun to bubble up in recent years, spaces welcoming everyone from longtime thrill-seekers who’ve felt the need to keep their sexuality under wraps to those seeking the joy of riding a wave for the first time in their lives.

South Brazil native Marta Dalla Chiesa is just one advocate spearheading this changing current. She and her partner Lesley Cushing co-own Brazil Ecojourneys, a tour operator based out of Florianopolis dedicated to sustainable tourism. One of their most buzzed-about packages is called, simply, Gay Surf Brazil; it’s a weeklong retreat that connects LGBTQ+ people interested in surfing while also helping to fight homophobia in surfing by simply existing within the space. It was started in 2013, originally in partnership with Thomas Castets, the founder of the social network GaySurfers.net and producer of Out in the Line-up, a documentary about what it’s like to be gay in the world of surfing.

“I had never realized the extent of homophobia in surfing,” Dalla Chiesa says “I always had the impression surfers are so chill, that they wouldn’t be bothered about this. When Thomas called me and talked about his film, you see how homophobic [things can be], especially at the professional level. In the States or Australia, I think the homophobia is there even if it’s subdued.”

Out in the Line-up offers a sweeping overview of the challenges that gay surfers around the world have faced, including finding kinship with people like themselves—a common struggle in the LGBTQ community—and a lack of sponsorships as out gay surfers at the professional level. In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Castets explained surfing’s deep-rooted homophobia in more depth.

“Surfing is, unfortunately, primarily a male-dominated sport. And when you have all these men traveling together, hunting for waves, there is an element to the psychology that is about making sure there is no ambiguity between the men,” he said. “To prove your heterosexuality, you need to prove your skills in the water. There have never really been any gay surfers out there, so I would just call that ignorance and a lack of visibility.”

Pop culture has certainly helped perpetuate the mass ideas about what a “typical” surfer is supposed to look like. The Endless Summer might be from the ‘60s, but it’s still one of the most iconic surfer films around, featuring two tanned, ripped bros carrying around surfboards in search of the perfect wave. Marketing for popular surfer brands also continue to be heteronormative, reinforcing archaic gender roles—Billabong landed in hot water back in 2017 for an ad that many called sexist because while it showed a male surfer shredding waves, the female was featured posing sensually on the beach in a bikini with no surfboard in sight.

Over the past few years hosting Gay Surf Brazil, Dalla Chiesa has heard stories from people who didn’t feel comfortable diving into the sport because of its “macho culture.” Things like “I always wanted to surf, but I didn’t have the courage because I’m a bit effeminate” or “I would feel bad surfing around macho surfers that might look at me funny,” she says. One year, she met a young man from Rio who’d grown up by the sea but didn’t feel comfortable enough to try surfing until he was with a school of other queer people who supported him. This reassuring environment has proved to be vital in not only everyone’s experience throughout the week, but also having people come back for another go.

Dalla Chiesa says participants return year after year thanks to the connections they’ve created through surfing together, especially for those whose first time was through her trips. Attendees who have met through the program have even started planning their own trips together; Dalla Chiesa has gone on to surf with clients all over the world.

For her, she says, it’s about community, a chosen family of queer surfers who know they’ll find like-minded support in each other, perhaps for the first time in their lives. “If you are [out] there on your own, it’s harder than if you are in a group,” she says about learning to surf. “People that are doing it for the first time, from every step they do to the first wave, people as a group really encourage them and we cheer. So people feel really included and that, I think, forms a bond,” she says. “We have a sense of community. There is more than surfing that’s linking us. Our queerness is linking everybody.”

In the United Kingdom, London-based actor Mattie Stewart and his friend Kris Cieslak have been planning trips they’ve dubbed Gay Surf Week for the past three years. Stewart only started surfing three years ago while on a trip to Fuerteventura in Spain’s Canary Islands and fell in love with the sport, so he and Cieslak decided to turn it into a hashtag (#GaySurfWeek) and a yearly travel destination. The first year, there were six people; it grew to 12 the following year, and then 18 this past year—cottage, sure, but expanding and opening new doors as it does. Stewart grew up extremely religious in Poland and was even studying to become a priest before coming out. Now, organizing Gay Surf Week has become a retreat of sorts, giving him the opportunity to find camaraderie with other gay surfers.

“For me, surfing and seeing that everyone else is proud of my achievement is such a big thing,” he says. “The biggest achievement for us [this past year] was when it was eight of us standing [on our boards at] the same time. The moment is priceless … It’s better to surf together than surf by yourself.”

Surfing has provided some life lessons for Stewart, he says, who sees parallels between riding a wave and overcoming hardships. While standing on your board, for instance, you have to keep your head straight and eyes locked on the shore or you risk falling, an apt metaphor for staying focused on your goals. And of course, there’s the occasional wipe out, a reminder that sometimes shit just knocks you off your feet.

But Dalla Chiesa mentions some hurdles in continuing what she’s helped create, including the current political climate in Brazil. While same-sex marriage is legal and Brazil’s Supreme Court voted in favor of making homophobia and transphobia crimes, violence against LGBTQ people continues. In 2018, 420 LGBT people were killed across Brazil according to the rights group the Grupo Gay da Bahia. Additionally, Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s current far-right president and a self-declared homophobe said earlier this year that “we can’t let this place become known as a gay tourism paradise. Brazil can’t be a country of the gay world, of gay tourism. We have families.” (Bolsonaro is also infamously known for having said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.)

Due largely to the political situation in Brazil at the moment and some cancellations, Gay Surf Brazil has had to put plans for this year’s festivities on hold. But since they know they have a committed community looking forward to reuniting, Dalla Chiesa has started looking into possibly organizing the trip elsewhere (Mexico, Portugal, and an as-yet determined European country are all on her short list).

Gay Surf Trip in Sagres, Portugal – Septembre 2019

7:26 PM in Events, Surf Trip by thomasadmin

GS is teaming up with Sagres Sun Stay to organise a surf trip in Sagres, Portugal 22/09/2019 to 29/09/2019.

Sports Activities Packages

Surf – Beginners
· Breakfast included;
· 7 nights in one of our accommodation options;
· 5 days of lunch boxes;
· 5-day transportation;
· 5 days of surf classes taught by certified surf teachers;
· 2 lessons of surf classes per day;
· All equipment included from top brands: wetsuit and surfboard (equipment insurance not included);
· 1 trip to see Cape St. Vincent’s sunset;
· Personal insurance coverage during classes.
Additional notes:
Because we are eco-friendly every client that buys at least one night in our dormitories has a shower per day included on the rate. Additional shower time will have an additional cost
Please note if you choose the Twin Room is only possible to start the packages on Mondays. For this reason, check-in on Sunday and departure on a Saturday, is mandatorily. However, if you arrange arrival on a different day talk with us to see our availability.

Windsurf – Beginners
· Breakfast included;
· 7 nights in one of our accommodation options;
· 5 days of lunch boxes;
· 5-day transportation;
· 5 days of windsurf classes taught by certified windsurf teachers;
· 8 hours + 2 hours (Bonus) of windsurf lessons per week;
· All equipment included from top brands: wetsuit, lifejacket and helmet (equipment insurance not included);
· Free SUP and kayak use (pre-reservation needed). Time available depending on the number of students;
· Slalom and free race boards for flat water blasting;
· Rescue boat available;
· Personal insurance coverage during classes.
Additional notes:
Because we are eco-friendly every client that buys at least one night in our dormitories has a shower per day included on the rate. Additional shower time will have an additional cost
Please note if you choose the Twin Room is only possible to start the packages on Mondays. For this reason, check-in on Sunday and departure on a Saturday, is mandatorily. However, if you arrange arrival on a different day talk with us to see our availability.

Windsurf –Intermediate & Advanced
· Breakfast included;
· 7 nights in one of our accommodation options;
· 5 days of lunch boxes
· 5-day transportation;
· 4 hours of windsurf classes (in 2 days) + 3 days of free renting of the equipment (equipment insurance not included);
· All equipment included from top brands: wetsuit, harness, lifejacket and helmet;
· Please note that the 1st class includes a test level.
· Free SUP and kayak use (pre-reservation needed). Time available depending on number of students;
· Slalom and free race boards for flat water blasting;
· Rescue boat;
· Personal insurance coverage, during classes.
Additional notes:
Because we are eco-friendly every client that buys at least one night in our dormitories has a shower per day included on the rate. Additional shower time will have an additional cost
Please note if you choose the Twin Room is only possible to start the packages on Mondays. For this reason, check-in on Sunday and departure on a Saturday, is mandatorily. However, if you arrange arrival on a different day talk with us to see our availability.

Combo windsurf + surf
Having a hard time to decide between Surf and Windsurf? Why not trying both?
· Breakfast included;
· 7 nights in one of our accommodation options;
· 5 days of lunch boxes;
· 5-day transportation;
· 3 days of surf classes taught by certified surf teachers;
· 2 days of windsurf classes taught by certified windsurf teachers;
· 9 hours of surf classes and 4 hours +1 hour (Bonus) of windsurf lessons. Please note that the 1st class includes a test level.
· All equipment included.
· Free SUP and kayak use (pre-reservation needed). Time available depending on the number of students;
· Slalom and free race boards for flat water blasting during windsuf class days;
· Personal insurance coverage, during classes.
Additional notes:
Because we are eco-friendly every client that buys at least one night in our dormitories has a shower per day included on the rate. Additional shower time will have an additional cost
Please note if you choose the Twin Room is only possible to start the packages on Mondays. For this reason, check-in on Sunday and departure on a Saturday, is mandatorily. However, if you arrange arrival on a different day talk with us to see our availability.

PRICE is 499 euros for 7 days – Ask for a 10% discount if you book through GS !

Surf Lesson
Our Surf School is located in Sagres in the most idyllic and unique areas of Algarve. With us you can find waves all year around and will be an unforgettable experience. We promise to adapt each level to each individual, taking in account your well-being and learning goals. Coupling a professional knowledge and teaching method with a friendly and interactive coaching approach, we guarantee satisfaction, great memories, and a good development of your skills.
Whether you are looking for a quieter place to stay and practice surf or to immerse yourself in a diverse and young surfing community, you are sure to look forward to an enjoyable and fun adventure while staying with us.

Our classes include:
Surf lesson taught by a professional and certified surf coach;
Lunch box;
Transport to and from the best spot on the day
2 lessons of surf classes per day (1h30 + 1h30)
Essential surfing equipment including softboards and accessories tailored to the needs of students

Please contact Sagres Sun Stay :

Sagres Sun Stay

Sitio do Poço8650-375 SagresTelf: +351 282 625 345Web: https://sagressunstay.com/

How gay-friendly is Australia’s beach culture ?

4:16 PM in Articles by thomasadmin

Written by Gary Nunn – Originally published by the GUARDIAN.

“Surfers go to south Bondi, backpackers, families and people from western Sydney go in the middle, then gays go to north Bondi.”

The advice Dan Murphy was given upon arriving in Sydney from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in 2003 is an unspoken rule. For Australia’s famous but relatively small beach, each social group is remarkably compartmentalised. It was to become prophetic: Murphy is now one of 1,094 Lifesavers with Pride (LGBTQI lifesavers and their allies) – in the North Bondi patrol.

But Australia’s beaches haven’t always been a safe space for the LGBTQI community. Before homosexuality was decriminalised (1984 in New South Wales all the way through to 1997 in Tasmania), some beach areas became “beats” – venues where gay men could discreetly hook up because society offered few spaces for them to meet and be intimate. But there’s a dark history – these places became the scenes of violent homophobic hate attacks.


In September 2018, the Liberal MP Shayne Mallard announced a parliamentary inquiry into homophobic hate crimes committed between 1970 and 2010. This includes 30 outstanding cases of at least 88 murders.

Many murders resulted in gay men being found dead at the bottom or on top of beach clifftops. One high-profile case is Scott Johnson, 27, found at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head, in 1988. Police are now offering a $1m reward for information leading to conviction – after initially, inaccurately, denying the area was a beat.

In October 2018, Waverley council announced a memorial monument will be built at the cliffside Marks Park, south of Bondi, following the homophobic attacks and murders of men at this beat.

But Australian beach culture, Murphy says, remains more conservative than beaches like Sitges in Spain, “where there are cocktails, DJs and parties right on the sand”. To “camp things up”, Murphy produced two flash mob videos on Bondi beach – one featuring drag queen Joyce Mange in 2009, and another in December 2015 where professional drag queens Minnie Cooper and Penny Tration re-enact the song 100 Degrees by Dannii and Kylie Minogue (retweeted by both sisters).

Gaysurfers.net was set up by Sydney resident Thomas Castets, in 2010. It was a call out: he wanted to see if other LGBTQI surfers were out there. Within a week, 50 people joined. Now, the website has 8,000 members globally. Castets made the film Out In The Line Up about attitudes towards LGBTQI surfers. He interviewed Dr Clifton Evers, who said: “When you get these groups of guys bonding … you’ll get homophobia because you somehow have to draw a line – as this cannot be seen as homoerotic. So you either objectify women – that leads to sexism – or you work on the premise that we must prove our heterosexuality. We must prove we’re not gay and we must reiterate that.” The professional surfer Barton Lynch explained it was common to call someone “faggot” or “poofter” when they didn’t catch a wave – homophobic language he has avoided since his brother came out.

Brisbane’s Fernando Claro was “surprised at how accepting and welcoming” Australia’s swim and beach culture is. He swam competitively in Peru but remembers “jokes about gays swimming with us” and being punched in his swim group. “They’d say, ‘careful getting naked in front of him’.” In the 12 years he’s been in Australia, Claro has become the president of the LGBTQI swim group Aqualicious and has patrolled Gold Coast beaches as a lifesaver for three years. “I wanted to meet gay people in a healthy environment and get fit along the way,” he says. “Me and my partner have no problems holding hands or hugging when we walk along Queensland’s beaches. I feel safe.”

Lesbian and bisexual women make up a third of members of Lifesavers with Pride. Many, its president Gay Driscoll says, join for the family environment and their children join Nippers.

Kate Fitzpatrick, from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, says: “My feelings towards feeling safe at the beach as a lesbian are much like being anywhere else. When wanting to give affection to my fiancé there’s always the vital scout around to ‘assess’ the area. I’ve suffered homophobia, usually men with snide remarks or thinking it’s a compliment to say ‘that’s hot’. It’s harassment and makes me feel unsafe.”

Coogee’s female-only McIver Ladies Baths have been called a “lesbian lair” – although it’s hard to find evidence of them being anything more than a safe space exclusively for women.

According to Gavin Patterson and John Walker, Australia has long had a gay beach subculture. The couple, who run the blog GayMenOnHoliday.com, cite nudist beaches such as Little Congwong at La Perouse (an unofficial nudist beach which police have previously raided), Lady Jane and Obelisk beaches in Sydney, Port Douglas’s Turtle Cove resort and the “world famous” Kings Beach at Byron Bay.

The couple say the associated non-conformity and liberation of nudist beaches often make them popular with gay people: “As gay people, our freedoms were somewhat restricted. These beaches are an opportunity to relax and enjoy camaraderie with your like-minded subcultural group in a very natural way.” Before social media and apps, they say the beaches were a way of meeting other gay people. “These people don’t want to hang with parents and screaming kids,” they say, adding that Queensland has no official nude beaches, unlike NSW.

Aussie beach culture may have progressed, but the puritanism Murphy perceived persists in 2019. “We’re more conservative than France, or Berlin, where you can shed all your clothes in the Tiergarten Park,” Patterson says. “Nobody bats an eyelid.”

Interview with John Witzig

5:41 PM in FEATURED, Stories by thomasadmin

John Witzig bloodied head – 1977

Australian surf photographer and journalist John Witzig documented some of the most important events in surfing through the 1960s and 70s. I remember reading that John was gay in an article by Nick Carroll. So when he came down to Sydney for another photo exhibition, I decided to introduce myself and ask him a few questions :


What is your name?

John Witzig

Where you live now?

In the scrub between Maclean and Brooms Head on the NSW north coast.

What is your job?

Principally it’s managing an archive of photographs that I shot over a decade and a half from the mid-1960s. The income that I get from that is so pathetic that even the government understands and they give me a part pension. And just in case anyone thinks that I’m living in luxury on the public purse, my total income is less than the minimum wage.

Can you tell us about your career as a photographer, writer, journalist, editor?

My ‘career’ in surfing publications lasted for that fifteen-year period. It began at Surfing World magazine where I’d contributed articles, and where, in mid-1967, the publisher, Bob Evans, let me edit and design a complete issue. It was July/August, and it would come to be known as the ‘New Era’ issue.

That same year I was poached to be the founding editor of a new magazine, Surf International, published by Gareth Powell. The magazine never made any money and in early 1970 (I think) I was sacked. My final issue had the theme of ‘Country soul’… the movement of surfers to live in the coastal county near good surf breaks.

Albe Falzon, David Elfick and I started Tracks in late 1970. It was a tabloid newspaper that had immediacy… something that the glossy magazines that were printed in Asia were denied. In addition to surfing, Tracks also covered politics, environmental issues, music and the sorts of issues that concerned us… and we hoped, our readers. My direct involvement only lasted for a year and a half because Albe and David wanted to concentrate on films and leave the magazine for me to produce. It was presented to me as a fait accompli and I said ‘no’.

Headless McTavish – 1966

Can you tell us about the article you wrote ‘We’re tops now’?

My friend Nat Young had won the third World Surfing Championships in San Diego in 1966. Californian David Nuuhiwa had been seen by the US magazines as the hot favourite, and his defeat presented the surfing industry there with something of a problem. They had warehouses full of nose-riders that they needed to sell. Their solution was to ignore Nat’s win.

Surfer magazine published an execrable article called ‘The High Performers’ (maybe in early 1967) with a group of Californian surfers gushing over one another. It was so absurd that I pulled out a story I’d run in Surfing World that compared Australian and US surfers, amped it up (quite a bit) and sent it to John Severson at Surfer. Severson amped it up just a little more, and gave it the awful title ‘We’re Tops Now’.

To say it caused a bit of a fuss is a major understatement. Surfer had letters about it into a second year. George Greenough was delighted… he loved the shit-stir. Fifty years later, Matt Warshaw (author of The Encyclopedia of Surfing) would write “Witzig… in response to Surfer shamelessly stonewalling Australia’s rise to dominance after the 1966 World Championships… roasted the entire purblind Dana Point Surf Establishment with ‘We’re Tops Now’—still the best, most righteous ‘fuck you’ surf article ever published.”

Arcadia – 1969


When did you start surfing?

About 1959 I think… when I was 14 or 15. This was the time when what we called the ‘Malibu’ boards were becoming more readily available. Prior to that Australians has surfed hollow plywood paddle boards that were BIG, uncontrollable and simply absurd. A Californian lifeguard team had bought ‘modern’ boards with fins to Australia for displays in association with the Olympic Games that were held in Melbourne in 1956. Balsa wasn’t available for some time… my first two boards were hollow plywood copies of the Californian boards.

Do you still surf today?

Nah… my body began to collapse in my mid-40s. I have chronic osteo-arthritis.

What is your connection to surfing?

In any contemporary sense? None at all.

I have arguably the best documentary archive of the Australian contribution to the shortboard revolution from the mid-1960s, and those pictures continue to be in demand for magazines, books and films. In part because I was editing magazines and knew what sort of pictures I wanted to tell stories with; and in part because I think it was a natural inclination, I tended to take pictures of the life around me in the surfing community. Those pictures are now seen as a social document of their time and have attracted the attention of institutional galleries.

I have occasional exhibitions… both independently and on the regional gallery circuit. That’s a link to surfing in some sense, but it’s tenuous.

Grafton Regional Gallery – 2017 – Photograph by Al Mackinnon


When did you start showing an interest to photography?

Definitely by the time that I was a teenager. I was image obsessed, and magazine obsessed. Somehow I became aware of a German magazine called Twen that was first published in 1959 and lasted eleven years. It was a showcase of great European photography (especially) and superb graphic design. I used to go into the city from my suburban home just to get the magazine. I also admired some of the photojournalism in Life magazine… this was the time of the war in Vietnam and of the outbreak of hippydom in San Francisco. Both were extraordinary subjects for photographers.

I’d also ‘discovered’ Cartier-Bresson early, and he became my first photographic hero.

What drove you to take photos of surfing?

I knew Ron Perrott, one of the best Australian surf photographers, and he introduced me to the joys and mysteries of the darkroom… and quite frankly, standing on the beach with a long lens shooting surfing pictures looked easy. Ron loaned me a camera and lens in (I think) 1961 and I shot my first roll of film of a kid called Nat Young at Collaroy Point. I took it to the chemist to be processed and I still have a couple of those very small prints.

Can you tell us how you meet Greenough, Midget Farrelly, Bob McTavish, Mark Richards, Nat Young?

All of them are individuals, and I met them at differing times and circumstances. In the very early 1960s, the Sydney north-side surfing scene was a very small world, so you got to know quite a lot of the characters. I got my driving licence in 1961, so could borrow my mother’s Beetle and get around the stretch of coast that ran from North Palm Beach to Fairy Bower. It was natural to meet people like Midget and Nat in those years.

Bob McTavish came to Sydney in the early 1960s, and somehow it was inevitable that we’d connect. George I would meet through Bob when they were both living around Alexandra Headlands in 1964 or ’65.

I knew Mark Richards’ parents because they carted him around to the contests like Bells which I’d first gone to in 1963… those events were great gatherings of the surfing tribe. More than a decade later Mark would be responsible for my scoring a room next to his on Oahu’s North Shore for the 1976–77 winter… and for introducing me to the locals at Haleiwa (which meant that I got some waves).

Why did you start travelling with them and taking photos?

I traveled with Nat and Bob more than a bit, George only a couple of times, Midget and MR never.

I was editing surfing magazines from mid-1966, and these were my friends. They also happened to be enormously influential surfers at a period of dramatic change. Of course I’d tell their story.

There was no attempt at objectivity in the sense of documenting the complete picture… and there was no money to do that. I continue to insist that I tell ‘a’ story… not ‘the’ story’.

Mark Richards at Haleiwa – 1967


How would you define surfing to the outsider? As a popular culture, sub-culture, or something else?

In the 1960s, I’d guess that it was a sub-culture. Apart from being looked upon with distain, surfers were ignored by the wider community. We had our own magazines and our own films. The wider world didn’t know much about us.

That began to change in the 1970s as business sought to connect themselves to the authenticity of surfers. The increasing popularity of surfing naturally bought it to the attention of the broader community.

In your experience, how is gender identity, especially masculinity, shaped and influenced by surfing?

Well, apart from gay surfers feeling the need to hide – hugely important, but not the question – then I don’t see how any of it is influenced by surfing.

Have you ever met any other surfer who happened to be gay?

I’ve met surfers who I assumed were probably gay, and I never asked them.

Do you think a surfer who is gay would be accepted in the surfing communities that you have been living in?

My time in a surfing community finished around 1980… so we’re talking about history. The fact that I was closeted through almost the entire time answers the question I guess.

I obviously maintained a lot of friendships after I met my partner Yann in 1980. It seemed to me that most people I knew well were happy for me. The moments of discomfort were rare as I recollect.

Yann, Myall Lakes – mid-1980s


How do you define your sexuality?

Do you mean how do I see myself? I’m a gay man.

How did you deal with your sexuality in the course of your life?

Poorly… it took me a long time to come to terms with being attracted to other guys. I did all the usual embarrassing things like trying to deny it; like being infatuated with straight friends (who mostly remained my friends); and being quite sure that I was in love with one or two of them.

When did you find out you were gay?

With the benefit of hindsight it was obvious when I was 13 or 14.

When did you come out to your friends and family?

In 1980 when I was 36 years old and I met someone I liked who seemed to like me. He moved into my house… at first because he needed a place to stay, but he didn’t leave.

I never announced anything to anyone… people could assume what they liked.

How did they react?

Almost without exception, my good friends simply included Yann in our collective lives. One old friend had a minor problem as his religion told him that I was an ‘abomination’. I kept away from him for some time, but eventually he seemed somehow to reconcile the situation.

What are your ambitions, hopes and aspirations?

My hope is to stay healthy, to continue to see what I might be able to do with my archive because it’s interesting… and to be happy.

Yann, Paris – mid-1980s


Is surfing homophobic?

Oh sure… astonishingly so given that this is 2018.

If so, do you think it is due to the stereotype that people have of surfers?

No I don’t. Somehow surfing’s social attitudes just got stuck in the 1950s, and even the remarkable approval of the same-sex-marriage plebiscite seems not to have dented that in the slightest.

Can pro surfers really be open about their sexuality or do you think it would affect their sponsorship?

I’d be pretty certain that it would affect sponsorship… and sadly that seems to apply to many or most sports.

Surfing is seen as a sport of freedom, do you think this image is true?

It can be true, but maybe increasingly less so in competition. I probably shouldn’t comment about something that I don’t follow, so disregard my opinion on that. I am sure that it applies to that fortunate few who get support simply for being the great free surfers that they are. That handful of idiosyncratic individuals might offer a real hope to make a break on the prevailing homophobia… and I’m not suggesting that any one of them is gay… I have no idea. I do admire them though.

Do you think surfing is moving towards a greater diversity/tolerance?

From my limited observation, I don’t see any sign of it.

How can heterosexual surfers best be ‘allies’ to gay surfers and communities?

It might mean challenging expressions of homophobia when they occur… not something that’s necessarily easy to do. It might mean not being silent over some current controversy that has bought the haters out. It might mean publicly expressing admiration for the achievements of a gay individual. I like the idea that we can bring change about by acting in the way we’d like the world to be… rather than the way we observe it as being.

A wide range of John Witzig’s prints are available at johnwitzig.com.au.

Gay Surf Trip in Brazil 2019

12:21 PM in Events, Surf Trip by thomasadmin

Gay Surf Brazil reaches its 5th edition!
23- 30 March 2019 in Santa Catarina, South Brazil

Gay Surf Brazil is THE LGBTQ Surf Camp of South America.

This annual event started in 2013 as a partnership between Brazil Ecojourneys and GaySurfers.net , a social media platform for LGBTQ surfers that has been connecting the community and helping fight homophobia in surf.

Since then, we brought together aspiring and seasoned surfers from the LGBTQ community from all over the world for a week of “surfing and fun amongst friends”.

Our surf camp takes place in gorgeous Praia do Rosa, a beach known throughout Brazil for its natural beauty, perfect waves and rustic-chic vibe.

The week-long program includes surf lessons/sessions, surf clinics, yoga classes by the sea, fitness-for-surfing classes to improve performance and lots of opportunities to socialise and make new friends.

Gay Surf Brazil is open for all skill levels, from absolute beginners to more advanced surfers. All members of the community and allies are welcome!

For more information email: thomas@gaysurfers.net


Use the discount code:
to get a 10% discount
email : thomas@gaysurfers.net


Saturday 23 March – Arrival in Florianopolis. Check in at the Majestic Palace hotel. Rest of the day free to visit this LGBT-friendly city or to relax at Praia Mole, the gayest beach south of Ipanema.

Welcome Dinner.

Optional G& L nightlife tour.
Our hotel is in close vicinity of Floripa’s nightlife scene.

Sunday 24 March
Early breakfast then transfer to Praia do Rosa.
11:00 am: Start of the Surf Camp: Surf Introduction for Beginners/ Evaluation session for experienced. Duration 3 hours.
2:30 pm: lunch and check-in at Village Praia do Rosa

Our small resort offers indoor and outdoor pools, sauna and steam room, fitness centre (all inclusive in the price) and a number of therapeutic massages (not included, but very affordable!).

Rest of the day to relax at resort or beach.

Monday 25 March
7:30 am: Yoga lesson/session to stretch those sore muscles
8:30 am: Breakfast
10:00 am: Surf Clinic followed by Surf Session. Duration 4 hours.
2:00 pm: lunch at the Resort
4:30 pm: Fitness-for-surfing class on the beach

Tuesday 26 March
8:30 am: breakfast
10:00 am: Surf Clinic followed by Surf Session. Duration 4 hours.
2:30 pm: lunch at the Resort
Rest of the afternoon free for relaxation at the beach or by the pool.

Wednesday 27 March
7:30 am: Yoga lesson/session
8:30 am: Breakfast
10:00 am: Surf Clinic followed by Surf Session. Duration 4 hours.
2:00 pm: lunch at the Resort
4:30 pm: Fitness-for-surfing class on the beach

Thursday 28 March
8:30 am: Breakfast
9:30 am: Departure for a full-day Surfari.

We will explore the Southern Coast of Santa Catarina looking for the best spots for our Surf Session. If conditions are good we will go up to Farol de Santa Marta, a remote fishing village with a famous lighthouse and good waves. On the way there, you’ll have the chance to see the famous Laguna Dolphins.

Friday 29 March
07:30 am: Yoga lesson/session
8:30 am: breakfast
10:00 am: Surf Clinic followed by Surf Session. Duration 4 hours.
2:30 pm: lunch at the Resort
4:30 pm: Fitness-for-surfing class on the beach

Saturday 30 March:
Breakfast & Check Out.
Optional open surf session with invited local members of Gaysurfers.net

Afternoon transfer back to Florianopolis airport for return flights.

Cost per person:
Single room basis: US$1760.00
Double room basis: US$1630.00

Package includes:
• All transfers starting/ending Florianopolis airport with English-speaking driver or guide;

• Welcome dinner;

• overnight accommodation at the Majestic Palace hotel in Florianopolis, with breakfast (Deluxe rooms);

• 6 nights’ accommodation at Village Praia do Rosa (shared houses, private ensuite rooms) with breakfast and lunch;

• 5 days of Surf Camp with Capitão David School in Praia do Rosa;
o Surf Camp consists of lessons for beginners and intermediates, followed by surf clinic with exercises/practice for better performances aided by analysis of videos filmed during lessons/sessions. Experienced surfers will have “Surf with a Local” Sessions and the Surf Clinic (4 hours daily);

• 1 full-day Surfari with Capitão David School with picnic;

• 4 Yoga Group Sessions;

• 3 Fitness-for-Surfing classes on the beach;

• English-speaking Tour Leader

Package does not include:
Flights, Visas, meals not mentioned, optional tours and activities, insurance, tips, equipment (except during surf lessons)

Limited places available. Reserve your place now!


Use the discount code:
to get a 10% discount
email : thomas@gaysurfers.net

Judy Trim: A life in two halves

8:58 AM in News by thomasadmin

Written by Jeff Bremer and originally published on Swellnet
Friday, 10 August 2018
On Sunday the 22nd July one of Dee Why’s great surfers passed away. Judy Trim died at age 64 after tragically breaking her neck in an accident four weeks earlier.

Judy burst onto the scene in 1968 at age 15, taking out the National Women’s Surfing Title. She followed it with another win in 1970 and podium places in 1969 and ’71, ’72 and ’74. She was also the first woman to receive the Duke Kahanamoku Award for most improved surfer. Judy also competed at Bells Beach and placed second between 1970 and 1974. The Bell’s trophy eluded Judy. At the time it virtually belonged to local legend Gail Couper who rang the Bell a record ten times between 1964 and 1976.

Judy was a much-loved surfing identity, and she surfed Dee Why Point at a time when few women were out there. Judy was full of fun and her old 1938 Buick was the subject of one of John Witzig’s most iconic surf photos of the era. That photo – see below – is now in the National Archives.

From left to right, Kim McKenzie, Micha Mueller, Phyllis O’Donell, Nat Young, Judy Trim, Carol Watts and Alison Cheyne. The car is Judy’s (Photo johnwitzig.com.au)

Judy’s bent for surfing was not surprising. Her father George and uncle Jack spent their childhood and most of their adult lives at Dee Why beach. George, a swimmer and bodysurfer, gave Judy her first surfboard at age 11. But it was her Uncle Jack who was her first inspiration for boardriding. In the 1940s and 50’s Jack was often seen surfing Dee Why Point on a 16ft plywood surfboard while wearing his signature white shark skin boardshorts. So it’s not surprising that in her early days Judy often surfed in a white one-piece bathing suit, and later in her contests in white boardshorts – it was part of the Trim tradition.

On his return from the war, Jack bought an old army Jeep and would drive it and his 16-footer up the beach to Long Reef. In 1946 he was the first man to surf the Butter Box, a reef break some 600m offshore at Long Reef.

Local surfers, including previous generation guys like Midget Farrelly and Bob McTavish knew her well, as did just about every serious surfer on the Northern Beaches. From 1968 onwards, as a recognised champion, she was on her way with a sponsorship from Shane Surfboards and a widening circle of contacts and friends throughout Australia and around the world.

The list of close friends from that era is too long to give. But special mention has to go to local surfer Jim Beardsley who tragically died in 1999, another victim of gun violence in America. He and Judy were friends from childhood and she had great pleasure meeting his children in 2014. On a number of occasions Judy said she wanted to have a memorial bench at Dee Why Beach dedicated to Jim. Maybe it’s fitting that those long-time friends get a bench together. Or perhaps add plaques to the bench already dedicated to her father George Trim with its inscription “a true Dee Why Legend”.

Those early years were the coming of age story for Judy and all of us who knew her. Waking each other up at 5am to go surfing before school. Tales of derring-do in the surf and seeing the sun rise on a crystal ocean with dolphins frolicking around us. Saltwater and lazy days hanging out with your surfer brothers and sister Judy – our tribe. We all have wonderful memories of those times and Judy recently remarked looking back, “nothing harsh that can happen to me can erase that time of joy”

Judy in ‘The Women’s Weekly,’ October 1968

But they were different times too that made it hard for a young female surfer. Pam Burridge described it well in 2017 interview on the ABC. “It was kind of the dark ages of surfing; it was a tough time to be anyone in surfing, be it a marginal, like a young person, or a woman or a lesser surfer. It was tough.”

Despite Judy and other women surfers having many supporters, there were lots of derogatory comments and aggression.

They were tough times in other ways too. At age 18, around the time of Witzig’s photo, she told everyone in the Dee Why scene that she was gay. At first the local surfers were stunned. A great many took it in a kind and decent way and Judy always had the love and unconditional support of her mum and dad, her sister Barbara and her many friends. But cultural attitudes and that darker flip-side to surf culture were still there. She spoke up for gay rights when hostility was widespread.

Maybe none of us knew how sinister and dangerous prejudice was back then, but in the face of all that Judy’s vitality, humour and love of life came through. We all have fond memories of her telling anyone who gave her a bit of lip to “get stuffed” with that fierce sense of fairness and justice she got from George and Jack.

Her actor-friend and neighbour Michael Lake shared a beautiful anecdote in his eulogy of how George taught her to box, and amongst other things how to “light a cigarette for a lady”. Judy demonstrated this for Michael and as he put it so eloquently, “In that modest exchange …I believe George her father was saying to his daughter, “Judy, I know your heart, and I love you.”

Judy challenged our beliefs at a time when being gay invited abuse and assault and sadly as we know in retrospect, hate crimes including murder. The world is now a kinder and gentler place. People still suffer discrimination, fear, and anxiety for being who they are, but Judy and the others who spoke up loudly at the birth of the modern gay movement made a huge difference. She continued living that truth all her life, and those honest actions and the example she set was one of her great achievements.

Judy’s greatest wish, at least in competitive surfing, was to go to the World Championships and represent Australia. She was selected in the Australian teams for 1969 and 1972. But ASA officials and the industry considered the women’s competition a mere sideshow. Women’s liberation was a hot social topic back then, but the surfing world didn’t get it, nor did any other professional sports organisations. There were no sponsors for the trip and in the days before easy credit Judy was unable to raise the funds. By the mid 70’s, perhaps because of official indifference or the lack of a professional tour, Judy had lost her enthusiasm and drifted away from surfing. She was not alone, by 1972 even Peter Drouyn, the 1970 Australian men’s champion, was disenchanted with competitive surfing. He at least stayed in the water and later returned to competition, but Jude drifted away.

There was something else going on at the time in surfing too. In the late 1960’s a gentle tide of drugs began to wash in on the Sydney beaches. The tide became a tsunami in the 70’s and 80’s and many lives were either lost or seriously messed up, with our friends amongst them. Judy was not immune and 35 years later when we met in a café in Glebe she told me about her battles with drugs and alcohol.

It would be a mistake to write the rest of this story as a cliché about a champion lost to drugs. Judy led a full and rewarding life. Both of us left surfing for our own reasons and both longed to get back and recapture the magic sense of belonging that we had in our youth. For me, the surfing came back 28 years later and I returned to Dee Why, welcomed with open arms. It was 2009 and the two disconnected halves of my life clicked together like magnets. I’ve been healed ever since by friendships regained and conversations re-started as if they stopped just 35 minutes ago rather than 35 years.

But it was not me that got Judy back to the beach but one of the ‘little guys’. A grommet who looked up to us when we were 15 or 16 years of age. Brian ‘Runna’ Langbein befriended Judy after seeing her drinking coffee at a Dee Why café in 2012. He got her a computer and set her up on Facebook that year and that opened up a new world of communication with others, especially Runna’s best mate Russell Lewis who became a rising star in the Michael Petersen era and is now a respected shaper and high-performance surf coach in Hawaii. Both of those guys stayed close to Judy and anyone who saw it, could see it was good. A 2016 posting by Judy said it all: “Since I have been on Facebook, I have reconnected with people I used to surf with…and it was so easy to talk”

That same year Brian bought Judy two surfboards, a 9’6” mal to start on and a beautiful Shane swallow tail – a collector’s board from her old board sponsor. The Langbeins arranged another meeting at their place soon after on a sunny day in June 2016. For the first time in decades Judy hung out with the bros for an afternoon and loved it. Most of all she loved Brian and Sandra for their kindness and friendship. There she met Russell back from Hawaii and two other friends, Col Steell and John Caves. The photo of the reunion was long coming, and it was all smiles and happiness. Judy was now keen to get back in the water, and we can only speculate that one day the two parts of her life would come together too. It really looked like 2018 would be Judy’s year, but unfortunately all that was stopped short by the accident.

At the memorial service on 1st August, people came from far and wide: surfers from all over Australia; the local Dee Why crowd and family who knew her so well; and the people from her other life. The latter included her many friends and loved ones. Actors, singers, musicians, friends, lovers, acquaintances, gay, lesbian, and straight friends from her beloved suburb of Glebe, and the lifelong friends she had made in recovery. People who’d stuck by her in thick and thin. Those she helped and mentored and others who had helped her. She had worked with runaway girls, cooked and cared for the elderly and weak, and made friends in places high and low.

At the service, Michael Lake and Zed Tintor, another close friend, spoke of her happy and mischievous personality. Michael painted a picture of humour and laughter, a woman who was tough and cared for deeply by her peer group, a confidant of rock musicians like Chrissy Amphlett, but most of all loving, loyal, down-to-earth, and brave in the face of adversity. The same mischievous girl we all knew. She was joking to the end.

In that service and the meeting between friends and family afterwards the two halves of Judy’s life came together. Her friends were delighted to hear about her achievements and connections in the surfing world. Judy had always been modest and made little of it. Equally, the surfers were delighted to meet her talented friends and realise that she was happy, much-loved and admired in that other life she made for herself. She had lived a life of courage and love. The love of friends, the love of a father and mother, of a lover, the love of a family and the love of life. Not much else counts.

I returned to Perth uplifted and marvelling at how complete her life was. She had times of anxiety, self-doubt, and failure but we all do and it’s not that which defines us. Rather it’s what you do about it and whether or not we get up again. It’s about who we loved and what we did for others.

She was loved greatly by her partner Sue Barker and their family, her mother Bev, sister Barbara, her niece and nephew Sophie and George Worthington, and her many, many friends.

I played Janis Joplin’s album ‘Pearl’ on the way to the airport. Judy loved that LP in 1971, and memories came flooding back. I had forgotten how damn good it was. I remembered the Judy then and thanks to Michael Lake’s beautiful eulogy I remembered the Judy now with a smile. I think I will forever.

In the coming summer there will be a paddle out to spread her ashes off Dee Why Point. The two surfboards given by Brian will be there and her friends Michael and his partner Tony will be on them. Other non-surfing friends and family will be encouraged to paddle out as well. Judy will be there with her mates to guide them safely beyond the waves and back to the beach where it all began.

// JEFF BREMER 08/08/2018

by Luis

Gay Surf Camp – Canary Islands – 2018

10:49 PM in Events, Surf Trip by Luis

8 days – 27th of October-3rd of November 2018
Maspalomas, Canary Islands


Use the discount code:
to get 100€ discount
Call (+34) 620 747 533
or email : welcome@spainsevendegrees.com


A week of surfing, sun, energy and fun amongst friends in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands.

It’s time to learn and improve your surfing level with LGBT friends from all over the world in the super Gran Canaria coast.

Enjoy an unforgettable experience with Spain Seven Degrees. We have selected the best place to surf and stay in comfort, AxelBeach Maspalomas, strategically located in Playa del Ingles. Best experience and fun on the island with the best atmosphere, facilities and leisure in order you can enjoy the best holidays, both day and night.

We work with the oldest surf school in Gran Canaria and the only LGBT friendly, PRO surfing school. Their teachers are the most qualified and they are the top rated school in the island.

We offer different level course depending on your skills. From beginners to intermediates surfers, everyone will learn how to surf and enjoy the ride. For pros, we will need to drive about 30 minutes to catch proper waves.

Our surf camp is the perfect place for couples, friends and solo travelers. We will be a maximum of 16 people from all around the globe.



Please, choose at the calendar the date you want to start your travel:

  • 23rd June – 30th of June SOLD OUT!!
  • 8th September – 15th September
  • 27th October – 3rd November

Departure & Return

Canary Islands. Gran Canaria Airport (Google Map)

Price Includes

  • 7 nights accommodation at AXEL HOTEL: Luxury and modern apartments with a warm design. You can choose solo or shared with another guest;
  • All transfers starting/ending Gran Canaria airport with English-speaking driver or guide
  • Welcome dinner-BBQ. VIP Area included with Balinese beds
  • Daily breakfast with full menu access
  • Pre-surf snacks: energy bars and water provided
  • 5 days of Surf Camp including lessons for beginners and intermediates
  • Experienced surfers will have “Surf with a Local” Sessions
  • 1 full-day Surfari with picnic
  • 1 relaxation massage
  • 1 local Gay nightlife tour guide
  • Farewell dinner and drag-show party
  • Complimentary surf photos
  • English-speaking Spain Seven Degrees Tour Leader

Price Excludes

  •  International or local Flight
  • Visa (if required)
  • Meals not mentioned above
  • Travel insurance (it´s mandatory to purchase one before you arrive to Maspalomas.
  • Tips
  • Equipment (except during surf lessons)


  • 1 yoga class: 10€
  • 5 yoga classes: 40€
  • Sailboat excursion: 70€

You will be able to add them during the booking.

What to Expect

The destination is everything when it comes to a surf camp. In Canary Islands you can expect a magical place where the weather is surf-ready pretty much all the time.  The long, sunny days, stable climate and water temperature of around 20ºC throughout the year, allows you to surf every day for as many hours as you want.

This is why Gran Canaria has become a surfing paradise where surfers from all over Europe gather. The large number of beaches enable you to visit many spots in a very short time in search of the big wave. Every day our team of instructors will pick the best place to surf waves.

In the evenings rest your wave-tired limbs in the pool.

For those who love adventure and the beach.


Day 1 – SaturdayArrival in Gran Canaria airport

Arrival in Gran Canaria airport
Transfer to Maspalomas
Check in at your amazing apartment at AXEL HOTEL
Pool party and Welcome Dinner BBQ at the Axel VIP
Optional LGBT guided nightlife tour

Day 2 – SundaySailboat excursion

10:00am. Breakfast
11:00am. Sailboat excursion to check the wildest beach in the south of Gran Canaria. Paella lunch included
5:00pm. Rest at the beach or the hotel pool
Optional surf session (experienced only)
9:00pm. LGBT nightlife guided tour

Day 3 – MondayStart of the Gay Surf Camp

9:30am. Breakfast and transfer to Surf beach to start the Gay Surf Camp
11:00am. Surf Introduction for beginners and evaluation session for intermediate and experienced. Duration 3 hours
5:30pm. Yoga class to stretch those sore muscles

Day 4 – TuesdaySurf, yoga and massage

8:30am. Optional yoga class
9:15am. Breakfast
10:00am. Surf Clinic followed by Surf Session. Duration 4 hours
Rest of the afternoon free for relaxation at the beach or by the pool
4:00pm. Relaxation massage at Axel Hotel
7:00pm. Viewing of “Out in the line up”, gay surfers documentary

Day 5 – WednesdaySurf, yoga and chill out

8:30am. Optional yoga class
9:15am. Breakfast
10:00am. Surf Clinic followed by Surf Session. Duration 4 hours.
2:00pm. Rest of the day free for relax, laze on the beach or by the pool… it’s your choice

Day 6 – ThursdayWhale watching

8:30am. Optional yoga class
9:15am. Breakfast
10:00am. Transfer to the harbor for a magical whale watching half day trip
3:00pm. Surfari
9:00pm. Optional LGBT guided nightlife tour

Day 7 – FridayYoga, surf and farewell party

8.30am. Optional yoga class
9:15am. Breakfast
10:30am. Surf Clinic followed by Surf Session. Duration 4 hours
Rest of the afternoon free for relaxation at the beach, sauna or by the pool
4:00pm. Relaxation massage at Axel Hotel
8:00pm. Farewell dinner and Drag show night club PARTY

Day 8 – SaturdayTransfer back to Canary Island airport

Breakfast & late Check Out
Optional open surf session
Morning-Afternoon-Evening transfer back to Gran Canaria airport for return flights



Use the discount code:
to get 100€ discount
Call (+34) 620 747 533
or email : welcome@spainsevendegrees.com



Use the discount code:
to get 100€ discount
Call (+34) 620 747 533
or email : welcome@spainsevendegrees.com

Keala Kennelly Is the Role Model I Always Wanted as a Grom

5:17 PM in Members' blogs by Craig Butler

Keala Kennelly, who has won three Big Wave Awards for women’s best performance, broke new ground at the 2016 award show, with a win in the tube category. Photo: WSL / JP VAN SWAE

As a grom hiding my sexuality, I scoured the internet to learn about other gay surfers. Not just any surfer, though, but a renowned professional. I needed a role model.

Growing up, all I could think was “I surely cannot be the only gay professional surfer?” It hurt having no one to aspire to be like. Hypothetically, if the likes of Kelly or Taylor Knox were “out,” gay men, then I think surfers worldwide would be more accepting and understanding of the pain and hardship that closeted people face on a daily basis. That person in the closet would have peace of mind knowing there was somebody else out there just like them. So my teen years were a mix of suicidal tendencies and loneliness due to the simple fact that I thought that I was the only gay surfer out there. I wanted to make a name for myself in surfing but thought it would be impossible.

In comes Keala Kennelly.

Keala is the closest thing I had to the role model I was looking for. And she’s one of the only women in the world to tackle waves most men are afraid to even look at. I’d originally wanted to interview her for Pride Month (June) and to my surprise, when I messaged her, she agreed to an interview. What I got from Keala was better than I could have ever imagined.

“I will start off by saying my answers are very real, raw, and authentic,” she told me. She gave me a real and unfiltered look into her life and the struggles that she has faced. I wish I’d known some of these stories when I was young. I am sure that this read will positively enlighten others in that same dark place, afraid to speak out for fear of rejection. If I’d read this when I was 15-years old, life would have been much easier for me even to this day.

How was life growing up?

I grew up in Kauai. My entire family surfed. My father had me on the front of his surfboard when I was still in diapers. All the neighborhood boys surfed. And those boys happened to be Andy and Bruce Irons, Reef Macintosh, Kamalei Alexander, Dustin Barca, Danny Fuller…so I had a lot of talent around me to draw inspiration from. I used to compete with all those boys and beat them in contests from time to time — which they weren’t very fond of — so they were extremely hard on me in and out of the water. It made me a really tough little tomboy.

How did life on the Tour treat you?

Life on the Tour was very hard for me. I was a closeted homo and I felt an enormous amount of pressure from the ASP (now WSL) and my sponsors to keep that a secret. So I was living a double life and dying inside every day that I wasn’t living authentically. I struggled with extreme depression. The only thing that made me feel good was winning but if I was losing that compounded my depression to the point where I would be having constant thoughts of suicide. So in 2006 when I was offered a role as a season regular on an HBO TV series, John From Cincinnati, I decided to leave the Tour.

When did you “bite the bullet” and come out of the closet and what was the reaction?

I didn’t make some big announcement or anything, I just started bringing my girlfriend to events and introducing her as my girlfriend instead of my “friend.” The reaction was very high school with a lot of people talking. It was stressful.

My contest results started getting worse and sometimes when the heat was really close and I felt like I didn’t get the score I needed, I would wonder if that was punishment for coming out of the closet. When the show (John From Cincinnati) didn’t get picked up for a second season, I started losing sponsors. In 2008, I lost three out of my four major sponsors: Red Bull, Spy, Vestal. Billabong didn’t drop me but systematically started cutting my salary down to almost nothing; from making six figures in 2007 to just a small travel budget of $3000 in 2015. I never understood if that was because I was gay and out of the closet, because of the economic meltdown, or probably a combination of both. The year Billabong dropped me was the same year I made history by winning the Barrel of the Year award at the WSL XXL Awards, was nominated for an ESPY, and became the first woman to be invited to the Eddie. So to me, that was the most successful year of my entire surfing career and yet I had no sponsors and went into enormous debt paying to get to big swells on my own credit cards. It was very confusing for me and again, I fell into bouts of extreme depression.

Do you feel a stigma is attached to your sexuality? 

Yes. I’ve constantly been told by surf industry sponsors that I’m not “marketable” and I think that’s directly attached to the fact that I’m a lesbian. But I think times have changed and that is a very old, outdated concept. Millennials are super into LGBT everything. I think the fact that I’m an out gay person that is breaking gender barriers and fighting for equality would make me extremely marketable.

From the days when you first exploded onto the scene to today do you see much of a change within the surfing community for gay people?

I don’t see any out gay athletes on the WSL Tour. You know that at least 10-15 percent or more of athletes on the WCT and QS would have to be gay based on statistics and yet I don’t know of any currently “out” athletes in surfing. I know what it feels like to be in the closet and to protect your career and it’s really, really scary. Everyone needs to come out on their own terms when they are ready. It would just be cool if they would do it while they are on the Tour and in the spotlight. That would do incredible things for the LGBT community.

Looking back sometimes I regret staying in the closet as long as I did. I could have been a positive LGBT role model sooner but the bottom line is I was selfishly and unauthentically benefiting from the “straight privilege.” And I loved getting paid to surf. I miss getting paid to surf but I would not trade it for living my truth. Once you start living authentically, that feeling is so freeing it’s impossible to live any other way.

Do you feel like you have made much of a difference? What would you say to that kid in every classroom around the world who is scared and embarrassed by their sexuality?

My parents were disappointed when I came out to them. Not because they have anything against gay people but because they knew how society treated gay people and they hated what they knew I would be put through. They could not understand why I would “choose to make my life harder” than it already was as a female in a male-dominated sport. It took them a while to understand that this was not a choice — this is who I am. Me pretending to be straight was a choice. It was a choice that was slowly killing me.

My life would have been a lot easier if I was straight but to quote the master himself, Bruce Lee, “Don’t pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Being a female in this sport and a lesbian stacked all the cards against me but that difficulty drove me to achieve amazing things that I probably would not have accomplished if I was straight and had a bunch of sponsors supporting me. My life has not been easy. My life has been hard but it has been that discomfort that pushed me to go bigger, dream bigger, and tap into my greatest potential. Being able to pick myself back up over and over when life has knocked me down and overcoming that to succeed has shown me how strong I truly am.

So no, I do not wish to be straight. I am perfectly fine the way I am. I don’t need to change, the world needs to change and embrace its gays. Quite frankly, we are kind of amazing. Like, look how awesome the boys decorate and the girls are single-handedly responsible for keeping the flannel fashion trend alive and strong since the early 90s. Also, I’m quite sure the gays are the Earth’s solution to population control, so the rest of the world should really be throwing us a parade.

At the end of the day, love is love and love is all there is.

I could go on and on talking about your accomplishments but can you tell me what has been your personal favorite and the title that you are most proud of?

The accomplishment I’m most proud of is winning an open gender category at the XXL Awards. A woman had never been nominated and nobody thought a woman could win an award like that, myself included until I did. That was a glass ceiling shattering moment that I will cherish forever. Also, because I’m born and raised in Hawaii and know the history, being the first woman invited to the Eddie in 2016/2017 was a huge honor for me.

Keala Kennelly (Haleiwa, Hawaii, USA) rides the biggest tube ever challenged by a woman surfer at Teahupoo, Tahiti on July 22, 2015. The image is an entry in the 2016 WSL Big Wave Awards. Exceptionally large surf has been experienced worldwide in 2015.

That wave you caught left people with heart palpitations. How did it feel to beat the guys and show the world that women can charge just as hard as men, if not harder?

I had been waiting all day at Teahupo’o for one of the boys to be generous enough to let me take a turn. The sun was starting to set and I was getting really bummed that I wouldn’t get a chance. Finally, Raimana came in from charging to take a break and let me borrow his ski and driver. The wind had started to come up, making it kind of sketchy, so I sat out the back for a while waiting for one that looked clean. I saw that one. It looked like it was gonna be a bomb and I knew this was probably my only shot so I took a deep breath and told the driver to go. I had to drop in really straight to negotiate a huge trench on the face because it sucked off the reef so hard and then had to drive really hard off the bottom and almost kick stall to not get too high in the barrel. I had a really good line but I was super deep and the West Bowl jacked and bent sideways. I was almost coming out when the foam ball completely vaporized me. Everything went white and I thought I died. It was one of the worst beatings of my life but I didn’t get any major injuries so I was stoked and when I got back out to the channel. I knew the wave was big but I didn’t realize how big it was until Brent Bielmann showed me the photo.

As for winning the award, I was honestly blown away that I won. I didn’t think they would let a woman beat out all the men. I think my win was a huge boost for the women and I think that was a catalyst for the women’s big wave tour moving forward. So I’m really stoked and grateful for that.

Any parting advice?

Don’t ever let other people’s opinions set your limits. If I had listened to all the things people told me I couldn’t do, I would not have accomplished even half of the things I have done in my life.

Go figure out what your limits are for yourself. You might be surprised when you discover you are capable of so much more than you ever imagined. And remember, everything you want is waiting for you outside the boundary of your comfort zone.

Editor’s Note: This interview was originally published and conducted by Humans of Surfing. For more from them, you can find Humans of Surfing on Facebook here

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